Thursday, 7 August 2014

#19 Heat Intolerance

I remember, during my first appointment at the MS Clinic, the neurologist asking me what happens when I take a bath. I thought it a strange question because I didn’t know that heat could adversely affect people with MS.

It made me think about a conversation I’d had with my daughter. I had spent a Saturday afternoon enjoying a long soak in the tub. It was my “Calgon Moment”, reading a book and soaking up the comforting warmth of the water. But, coming out of the tub I always felt weak, overheated, lightheaded, and would immediately lie down.

My daughter was smarter than me because she had noted that this was my normal response to a bath, not a rare occurrence. I hadn’t figured it out for myself, but her comment and then his question put it all into focus for me.

The doctor called it a ‘hyperthermic response’ but the official term is Uhthoff’s Phenomena, and basically it’s heat intolerance.

I remember another day, a summer day, when I parked behind the town hall because I needed to pay my taxes. In the office I was informed that they didn’t have Interact and so I needed cash or a cheque. I had neither with me and decided to walk down the block to the bank. Bad idea.

At that time my balance was okay, for most of the time, but I always felt better when I had something to hang onto or touch. But walking downtown didn’t give me such hand holds, though I did stop once or twice to touch the building, pretending to look in the shop windows. By the time I got to the bank I was so weak and tired, my head felt fuzzy and I was red faced and in a sweat.

The teller asked if I was okay, and I said yes, even though I knew I wasn’t. I decided to not to walk the main street back to the town hall, but took the back way, along the parking lots. I was stumbling along and absolutely missed seeing the road bump in front of me. Of course I tripped, lost my balance as I have no recovery, and fell flat on my face in the road.

There were people around who were shocked, but quickly came to my aid. I had landed hard on my knee, ripping my jeans, falling forward on my shoulder, hitting my head. Talk about mortified, way beyond embarrassed. These kind people helped me to my feet and were crowding around me, adding to my over heated situation. One understanding lady asked where I was going, and offered to drive me to my vehicle. I took that ride, and sat in my car until I was cooled down and rested, before I went in the office and paid my bill.

So, there you have it, heat intolerance, from exercise, hot baths, anything that causes an increase in your body core temperature. The good thing is the effects are temporary and will disappear with rest and cooling.

A warm bath is a luxury, one I was not willing to give up. With as much joint pain as I have it is also therapeutic, or so I tell myself. Now, I only bathe at night when I will be heading to bed immediately after. I often remain in the water as it cools, or should I say as I cool. It works better that way for getting out of the tub.

So no hot tubs or saunas in my future, and that’s okay, they weren’t part of my past anyway. But, there’s not much I can do about hot summer days but stay inside, stay cool and wait for fall.

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